New Oil Spill in the Gulf?
Over the past few weeks, there were numerous reports of dead dolphins across the Gulf, including a report of 5 dead dolphins near Rattlesnake Bayou on the east side of Barataria Bay, LA. As part of our basin patrol program, we planned a fly over of the Barataria Basin, with Bonnie Schumaker, to look for dead/stranded dolphins and other wildlife. After receiving reports Saturday, March 19, 2011, of oil and strong petroleum odors 23 miles south of Grand Isle, we decided to fly over the Gulf. We flew from New Orleans, south along the Mississippi River and across the east side of Barataria Bay toward the Gulf of Mexico.
At first we didn't see anything out of the ordinary, brown heavily silted waters coming from the muddy Mississippi River dumping into the Gulf. Typical spring high river water. We flew a little to the east and found more of the same. We turned to the southwest, heading toward the reported oil sighting south of Grand Isle, LA. Almost immediately we began seeing, what appeared to be, large areas of oil just below the surface along with streaks of multicolored "sheen" on the surface. The smell of petroleum was thick in the air. We flew southwest, to approximately 40 miles south of Grand Isle and followed the "plumes" and "sheen" north all the way in to Grand Terre Island and Grand Isle. The "sheen" appeared to be flowing into Barataria Bay through Four Bayou Pass and Grand Isle Pass. We saw only a few birds, one large, dead Red Fish and only three dolphins during the entire fly over. Mike Roberts, Louisiana Bayoukeeper, reported what we were seeing to the Coast Guard, as we were flying in.
It was surreal. Is the BP Well leaking again? Is this more, larger waves of old dispersed oil washing in from the BP Well, which has been ongoing since the original spill? Could it be a blow out on another rig? Is the force of the spring river flowing off of the continental shelf pushing dispersed oil back up from the water bottoms? Is it something else all together? As we flew inland, across Barataria Bay, heading back to the New Orleans Lakefront Airport, all I could think was "Please Lord, not again! This can't happen again, they still haven't finished cleaning up the mess from the last one!"
The fly overs help us identify problems and their locations in the water. The next day, Sunday, March 20, 2011, we left Lafitte/Barataria in the Bayoukeeper Patrol Vessel to collect samples. The wind was blowing from the south and we began smelling petroleum around Wilkinson Canal. It could have been coming from Bay Jimmy, as clean up from the BP spill is ongoing in this area. We continued south of Bay Jimmy into Barataria Bay. The petroleum smell became stronger and we began to see foam and what appeared to be small globs of weathered oil/dispersant. We grabbed samples of the water and globs. The wind and current was kicking up waves and making it very choppy. We came across thick streams of red/brown foam in the current lines at Coup Au , Four Bayou Pass and Grand Isle Pass and grabbed samples. It was too rough in front of the Islands for our boat to get samples from the uninhabited beaches. We will make another trip to collect samples when it calms down. We will post the results of our sampling as soon as we get them back.
Our Councilman, Chris Roberts has been and continues to monitor this incident; as well as, the ongoing impacts from the BP Spill. Here is a link to a WWL report. http://www.wwl.com/Jefferson-official-on-reported-oil-slick/9437034
Bonnie Schumaker, http://www.OnWingsOfCare.org , is a fantastic pilot and committed advocate. She donates her plane, time and 50% of the fuel for the fly overs she has taken us on. We are grateful for all she does. We hope you will take the time to go to her website.
Hurricane Creekkeeper, John Walthen, took several photos during the flight. You can view some of these photos here.
Louisiana Bayoukeeper, Inc
Fishing Community Family Support Center
P.O. Box 207
Barataria, LA 70036
The following slideshow of this weekend's flight over the Gulf of Mexico was created by Hurrincane Creekkeeper John Wathen. All right reserved ©2011 John Wathen.